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  • The Leopard Report: Last Call for Feature Requests?

    January 23rd, 2007

    I’m sure many of you are wondering just when Apple will unleash more information about Leopard’s features, and hopefully in enough detail so you can appreciate (or properly criticize) what they’ve done.

    Indeed, many of you are actually postponing a purchase of a new Mac until Leopard arrives, so you don’t have to pay full price for the operating system or undergo the occasional agony of a full installation. Yes, I know that operating system upgrades, particularly for Macs, aren’t supposed to be painful, but I also have a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you real cheap.

    Assuming Apple’s promised delivery date of spring is correct, of course, the development team is now busy putting in the final features, or maybe they’re already present and just require the standard range of testing and fixing and more testing until Leopard is declared ready to ship.

    But ahead of any spiffy new features, I’d like to see Apple introduce a sensible upgrade policy, for once. I’m talking about something that is more than 15 or 30 days, unless you buy a new Mac after the shipping date is announced and it doesn’t have Leopard preloaded.

    I think it’s pretty clear that Apple has plenty of money in the bank, and they don’t have to worry where their profits are coming from. I’m equally sure that millions will buy Leopard upgrades at full price over the year or two that it’ll be their cutting-edge, latest and greatest operating system. So sacrificing a small amount per purchase would be a wonderful gesture for all the Mac users who have paid for one or more complete upgrades in recent years.

    The easiest way to do this would simply be to offer, say a $50 rebate, which you receive from Apple or its fulfillment house simply by sending them your Tiger DVD. That’s all! You don’t have to prove anything, or fill out complicated paperwork, nor do they have to do anything more than verify it’s a genuine disc and send you a check.

    Sure, they could put a time limit on an offer of that sort, say December 31, 2007, which would give lots of you a chance to sit through a couple of Leopard maintenance updates before you spring for the upgrade. That way if 10.5 ships with a few irritating bugs — as it no doubt will — you don’t have to feel you’re an unpaid beta tester or paying for the “privilege” of using an operating system that isn’t quite what it should be.

    This isn’t to say that I think Leopard will be buggy. I think Apple is giving themselves quite enough time to get it in pretty solid shape before it goes out the door, and they have until June 20th or thereabouts to deliver the first copies. It’ll probably come earlier, but there’s no rush. Or at least I don’t think there is, unless some new, unknown hardware is going to require it.

    At the same time, you wonder how closely Apple is watching the online chatter when it builds those 200 or so features for the next Mac operating system. I suppose some of you think that Steve Jobs sits there on his MacBook Pro — or some unreleased successor — and types out what he wants to see, and the developers say, in unison, “yes sir!” as they strive to meet the demands of their lord and master.

    That may, in part, be true. But how often as Steve Jobs said, in introducing a new version of Mac OS X, that you and I asked for this, that, or some other feature, and they were happy to comply with our requests?

    You see, Apple wants to sell product, and if you want and need something that they can supply, they will consider it. Sure, it may be implemented in a way you didn’t anticipate, but that’s Apple for you.

    So what do you need in a Mac OS X upgrade that you don’t already get? Well, my requirements are modest. While the Time Machine backup application seems sufficiently fascinating both in features and interface, I am not without other backup choices. I use SuperDuper!, a shareware program that handles all the backup chores that I need to protect myself should I lose a file or a hard drive goes south.

    Spaces? Well, I can see where a desktop can get mighty cluttered with applications and documents, particularly with a smaller screen. We don’t all have the luxury of having two 30-inch displays situated side-by-side and showing different segments of your desktop. Even then, I can see where a busy content creator will be inundated with a number of tasks that mess up an orderly workspace.

    But I don’t have an immediate need for multiple desktops. I use HideItControl, a preference panel extension that can be configured to hide all your applications, except for the one you’re working in.

    As far as the Finder is concerned, for me it’s more a matter of performance and reliability. When I run two or three copying operations at the same time, the Finder stalls. If a network share is disconnected for any reason, the Finder takes its own sweet time getting the message. None of this requires an interface change, and I realize some of you are clamoring for that, but that’s another issue.

    Of course, Finder and even Open/Save dialog improvements don’t really sound sexy enough to be placed front and center on a feature laundry list. I suppose you could also say that Steve Jobs might feel that, in saying the Finder is better, he is admitting it really wasn’t so good after all.

    Regardless of what’s to come, at this point I don’t expect a wish list to amount to anything. It’s just too late in the game.



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